Weather Permitting

February 13, 2007
A thought by James Berardinelli

With stormy winter weather threatening the northeast, now seems as good a time as any to re-iterate why the word "expected" accompanies projected post dates for new reviews. That date assumes all goes well and that snow, sleet, or ice skating rinks masquerading as roads do not interfere. So far, this winter has been mercifully kind with respect to frozen precipitation and I haven't missed one screening. (Considering general movie quality, I might have wished for several blizzards or to be living east of Lake Ontario, but that's another column.) There's a certain irony to the situation I face this week. In an earlier ReelThoughts, I mentioned that the only January/February release I was looking forward to was Black Snake Moan (the release date has subsequently been moved to March 2). So what screening is placed in jeopardy by a rain/snow/ice cocktail? Not Norbit. Not Hannibal Rising. Not Blood and Chocolate. It's Black Snake Moan.

I like snow - at least one good storm a year, but preferably two or three. Ice is evil but snow is good. The lighter and more powdery the better. This sentiment might seem odd coming from someone who is not fond of winter sports and cold temperatures, but there's something calming about watching the flakes fall. I don't even mind shoveling, although my driveway is a challenge even with a snow thrower. As long as the power stays on, winter storms are wonderful things. If the power goes off, they can turn into nightmares. Around here, snowstorms usually do not result in power outings. Ice storms almost invariably do. If the surface temperature is below 32 F, my mantra is "don't rain." Above 32, I don't care what spills from the sky.

Half of my James Bond review archive is owed to a snowstorm. Seven or eight of those reviews were written during the "blizzard of '96," when 32 inches of snow fell on my townhouse over a 48-hour period. (Readers in Oswego County are now exclaiming: "Only 32 inches??") The storm started on a Saturday afternoon and ended on Monday. Non-emergency vehicles weren't allowed on the roads until late Wednesday and I didn't go back to work until Friday. That gave me five uninterrupted days with nothing to do but watch movies on laserdisc and write reviews. I look back at that storm with great nostalgia. I'm not sure my feelings would have been the same if I had been in my present location with this driveway to clear.

Alas, this upcoming storm will not be of the variety that encourages hunkering down. It will force me to shovel slush from my driveway and may kill my ability to see Black Snake Moan until it opens, but it won't result in a sudden upsurge in old movie reviews. February will only have two: Tootsie and either Breezy or Conversations with Other Women.

I am something of a weather geek. It's more than a passing interest but less than a full-blown hobby. A few weeks ago, someone wrote asking if I could provide a list of the movie blogs I regularly read. This question stumped me because, truth be told, I don't read many movie blogs, and none of them regularly. I don't have the time. But that doesn't mean I avoid blogs altogether. Instead of reading about movies, I read about the weather. Some of those blogs are technical but, having graduated with a degree in engineering, that doesn't intimidate me. The advent of video blogs has made it easier to absorb information. It should be noted, however, that many meteorologists, like many movie critics, are designed more to be read and heard than seen. (There are a few cute weatherwomen out there but they talk distressingly little about the weather.)

My wife and I are well matched in many areas, but my passion for weather is not one of them. If she walks past my computer screen and sees that I'm at a weather site, I can hear the sigh. Eyes roll. If I have the temerity to talk to her about the weather, she gives me a blank stare. (It's the same reaction I have when she starts talking about wardrobe and awards ceremonies.) Sadly, my mother takes Sheryl's side in all of this. I suppose they view it as a genetic defect and have come to realize that there's no cure.

The bottom line? If you're living in South Florida or California awaiting a review and see the "Expected" date undergo a sudden change, take a look at the weather map. That could explain everything. Unless it's July, and then I probably got stuck in traffic.